CUPRINS nr. 137



The Romanian versus the Italian Government over the Discrimination of the Romanian Immigrants


During the last two years, the situation of the Romanian immigrants in Italy has deteriorated badly, due to the extensive coverage in mass media of a wave of crimes against persons (attacks, murders, rapes etc) committed by some Romanian immigrants, most of them Roma ethnics. This situation has created and fuelled an internal crisis in Italy, as well as a diplomatic crisis with Romania. In order to evaluate how the diplomatic crisis between Romania and Italy can be solved in an amicable and efficient manner, we will examine the countries’ perspectives, to include how each country frames the issues in the negotiation, the parties’ positions and interests, as well as each party’s best alternative to a negotiated agreement. The purpose of this paper is not to offer possible options for the parties, but to lay a strong foundation for understanding the nature of this negotiation.

Keywords: immigrants, crisis, Romania, Italy, negotiation


Italy and Romania share common historical origins and cultural heritage and a long tradition of good cooperation. However, during the last two years, the situation of the Romanian immigrants in Italy has deteriorated badly, due to the extensive coverage in mass media of a wave of crimes against persons (attacks, murders, rapes etc) committed by some Romanian immigrants, most of them Roma ethnics. In Italy, the national press campaign that took place after the first widely publicized incident involving a Romanian Roma offender, stirred waves of xenophobia and violence directed towards the Romanian immigrants at civil society, mass media and political level1. The Italian government reacted by taking legislative measures against the offender immigrants. As a result, thousands of Romanian immigrants departed the country „in a real exodus stirred by the expulsion decree against the offender immigrants”2. This situation has created and fuelled an internal crisis in Italy, as well as diplomatic crises with Romania and to a lesser extent with the European Union (EU) to which both countries are full members. The consequences of this crisis might destabilize the political and social stability in Italy, with both political and economic consequences in Italy as well as in Romania.

In order to evaluate how the diplomatic crisis between Romania and Italy can be solved in an amicable and efficient manner, we will examine the countries’ perspectives, to include how each country frames the issues in the negotiation, the parties’ positions –meaning the preferred solution or demands- and interests, as well as each party’s best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA). The purpose of this paper is not to offer possible options for the parties, but to lay a strong foundation for understanding the nature of this negotiation.

The crisis began on 31st October 2007, after Nicolae Romulus Mailat, a Romanian Roma was accused of attacking, raping and killing an Italian woman in Rome3. The incident, known as „Mailat case” spurred a negative public opinion reaction against the Romanian immigrants and the Italian government’s measures taken in response to the event included a decree that facilitates the expulsion of the illegal foreigners. According with the Romanian press, the Italian authorities signed then 177 decrees for the expulsion of the Romanian citizens in only three weeks4.

The day the expulsion decree was published in the Official Gazette, four Romanian citizens were attacked by ten unknown persons, with their faces covered, in a parking lot in Rome. On 5 November 2007, unknown persons distributed and posted posters on the streets and walls of Vicenza (North-Eastern Italy) that instigated to a „war against Roma”5.

Few months later, the residents of the Southern town of Naples became enraged after a young Roma was accused of trying to steal a baby from a house. Hours after the event, a Romanian laborer was beaten and stabbed in one shoulder6. There was an immediate backlash against Roma in Naples, where Italians set the Roma camps on fire7. During the next days, numerous attacks were carried out against Roma immigrants. In two separate incidents in the same day, two Roma boys were beaten by local boys and a car owned by a Roma was set on fire8.

The Italian government responded to these last incidents by announcing its intention to regulate the entry of Roma and Romanian citizens into the country by temporarily suspending the Schengen Agreement9, use the armed forces for law enforcement activities in the cities, and dismantle all unauthorized Roma camps and deporting their residents10. These measures are included in a legislative package known as the „security package” comprising a bill, a decree, and three actualized legislative decrees11. The Italian Senate approved this legislative package on 23rd of July 200812 though up to this moment it has not yet been ratified by the Parliament.

The great majority of Roma immigrants in Italy live in caravans and shacks in „authorized” or „unauthorized” camps. These camps, often located far away from the city centers, nearby or even directly on waste dumps, do not usually have drinkable water or electricity, gas for cooking and/or heating, access roads, sewers or drainage systems. As a result, the health conditions are extremely poor inside these camps13.

In order to deal with the situation, the Italian government declared in 2008 a state of emergency that enabled them to monitor, map, rehabilitate and evacuate the Roma camps14. The Prefects of Naples, Rome and Milan were entrusted with special powers as „Roma Commissioners” and their mission was to deal with the „Roma emergency”. Subsequently, on May 26th, the Minister of Interior announced his intention to start mapping Roma camps and take a census of the residents15. A month later the Italian government announced its intention to also fingerprint all Roma residents of the three regions, including children. However, after the European Parliament adopted in July 2008 a resolution that objected to fingerprinting based on ethnicity, the measure was dropped16.

The situation further deteriorated in February 2009, when the Italian Police forces demolished dozens of unauthorized shacks and camps around Rome, in response to the rape of a 14 years old Italian girl by persons suspected to be Romanians. Despite the fact that the DNA analyses of the two Romanians accused and detained for the rape against the 14th years old proved that the Romanians were innocent17, Romanian immigrants in Sicily started to receive threat letters, which said that they were to leave Italy as soon as possible if they cared about their life and security: „We are sick of your abuses and we invite you, Romanians, to leave our country in order to avoid something worse”18 was written on one of the hundreds flyers distributed in Canicatti, Italy. Moreover, Italian employers started to discriminate against Romanian employees, and some started laying Romanians off without a specific reason. More troubling though, is the fact that such acts of aggression, such as the beatings of Roma immigrants and setting Roma camps on fire, were reported to be performed by official state employees, as uniformed police agents 19 and municipal councilors20.

The issue to be negotiated therefore is how to stop the wave of crimes that affected Italy and the subsequent violent and xenophobe reactions that it arose, in a way that will not violate the human rights and will not infringe on the Romanian citizens’ rights and liberties conferred by the EU legislation.

Based on the facts exposed above it is clear that the Italian government has several problems linked with the Romanian immigrants’ community. The situation in the neighborhood of Roma camps, where thefts and petty crimes and the deteriorating public hygiene increased social tensions contributed to the Italian negative opinion of immigrants. According to a survey conducted by the IPR Marketing, 60% of Italians taking part in the interview felt personally threatened by the presence of Roma; 68% thought that all Roma camps should be dismantled and expelled from Italy21. These findings are consistent with the opinions of various political parties’ members and local authorities’ leaders, who declared that the continuous increase in Roma settlements has become unsustainable, and that the objective was to close down all camps in those areas. Other local centre-right parties requested that the Roma be expelled from cities22.

Moreover, the president of the Province of Milan, declared that Roma should be stopped from leaving their countries of origins, by signing agreements with the Romanian government23. The same opinion was restated by the Foreign Affairs Minister Franco Frattini, at the CAGRE24 meeting in Brussels, when he told his Romanian counterpart that „the Romanian authorities should give us assurances that there will be no more Romanian offenders on our streets”. However he also stated that „Italy reiterates that it accepts and will continue to accept the Romanians that work and observe the law, but, in the same time, will take tough measures against the ones who do not obey the law” 25.

During a working meeting with his Romanian counterpart, Frattini requested that Romania supplement the police forces sent to Italy in order to combat the Romanian criminality. Another request referred to the change of the bilateral accord between the two countries26 in order to provide for the repatriation of all the Romanian detainees condemned definitively in Italy27. Also, in May 2008, Frattini declared that it was necessary for the Schengen Agreement to be reviewed at the European level28.

The position of the Italian government is triggered by its need to improve the public safety and the high levels of crime, as this was one of the promises they made before the April 2008 elections29. In the same time they are concerned about the immigrants’ social integration30 since they fear that failing to solve the issue will continue to depreciate the situation. However, Italy needs the immigrants, stated the Italian Senate’s President, in order to face its negative demographic trend31. The Italian political elite made the promises to tackle the public safety issue prior to the national elections and now they are called to deliver. Their challenge is to do so with respect to the Italian civil society expectations while they also comply with the EU legislation. Their BATNA, maintaining the status quo, is not a viable solution from the domestic point of view, and if they are to solve the issue, the solution needs to take into account both Romania’s and EU’s interests, otherwise the situation could deteriorate Italy’s relationship with both entities. A key issue that will influence Italian government will be the EU reaction to its measures. If the legislative measures they take fail to comply with the EU legislation, then Italy will face the risk to be subject of the EU infringement procedure32 and finally be taken to the European Court of Justice.

The reaction of the Romanian government came right after the „Mailat case”. The then Prime Minister Calin Popescu-Tariceanu formed a „task force” comprising Foreign Affairs, Interior, Justice and Labor ministers, and tasked it to „present a set of measures meant to counterbalance what is happening at this moment in Italy” 33.

After the task force’s meeting, the Prime Minister declared that the Romanian Government had in essence two problems, linked but also distinct in nature: the criminality wave caused by Romanian immigrants that arose in the poor integrated immigrants’ communities, and the situation of the rest of the Romanian immigrant community that is formed by honest and hard working, well integrated socially citizens, that find themselves victimized for their co-nationals’ crimes and the existing stereotypes. The Prime Minister explained that the criminality is high inside the groups that are not socially integrated and do not have work. Therefore, one of the measures will be to ask the Italian authorities to implement a program for the social inclusion of the groups that lack a job and are found usually in the unauthorized camps. The Romanian Government enhanced the judicial and police cooperation with the Italian Government by sending liaison judges and more policemen to help Italian authorities combating the criminal phenomenon. As for the Romanian citizens that are set to be expelled, the Government will help them with consular assistance, and also require the Italian authorities to give the Romanian authorities solid proof and evidence for the expulsion decision34. In order to do this the Foreign Affairs Minister disposed more consular section personnel to assist at the three already existing Romanian Consulates in Rome, Milano and Torino, and also requested that three new consulates be opened in Trieste, Bologna and Cosenza35.

At European level, the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed his concerns by informing the then European Union Commissioner for Justice that the implementation of the new Italian legislation might generate violations of the human rights and EU legislation36.

Later last year, the Romanian official opinion, was again expressed publicly, this time at the highest level by the President Traian Basescu, during his visit in Italy at the invitation of Silvio Berlusconi, then the President of the Italian Council of Ministers. President Basescu declared that the Romanian citizens, regardless ethnical background, are European Union citizens and that the Romanian state will attempt to protect its citizens and will protect them anywhere in the world they might be living, but that it will never request other governments to protect Romanian criminals. He made it clear that the ones that disobey the law must be kept accountable before the law, anywhere they are37. However, during the same visit, President Basescu reiterated that the Romanian Government does not approve all measures taken by the Italian Government. He acknowledged though that Romania has a problem of integration of the Roma community and that the Romanian Government wants to work with the Italian Government in order to find common solutions to this problem38.

From the above analyses we can conclude that Romania and Italy have common interests in resolving the criminality phenomenon and its consequences, and also work toward a better integration of the immigrants into the Italian society. In addition to this, the parties have another common interest that is not directly linked with the negotiation issue, that is, to preserve their existing strategic partnership. Their diverging interests are linked with the public statements made by the Italian politicians’ early into the crisis, statements which exacerbated the xenophobia39, the enforcement of the measures taken by the Italian government and the effects they have on the Romanian citizen’s rights.

However Romania’s BATNA is much stronger as Romania does not face Italy’s domestic constraints. The Romanian politicians could lose some of their voters’ support if they fail to favorably resolve the situation, but the politicians also know that the domestic issues will prevail in the voter’s judgment and ultimately, vote. Besides, Romania’s position is dramatically enhanced by the provisions of the EU legislation with respect to the human rights, but mostly to the rights conferred by the EU citizenship40. Romania’s BATNA is to defer the issue to the European Commission.

Other parties with a significant stake in the negotiation are the Italian and Romanian civil society and mass media, and the immigrants’ associations. For the purpose of this paper we have assumed that their positions and interests are (or should be) reflected on the two governments’ positions and interests, as analyzed above. However a party that will influence to a great extent the negotiation is the European Union (EU), as both states are full EU members. Its main position and interest are outlined below.

The EU position and interest are clearly stated in the community law, commonly known as acquis communautaire41. Specifically, the EU legislation that applies in this case is:
• Article 12 of the European Community Treaty (EC Treaty) provides that any discrimination on grounds of nationality is prohibited42.
• Directive 200/43/EC states that „any direct or indirect discrimination based on racial or ethnic origin as regards the areas covered by this Directive should be prohibited thoroughout the Community” 43. The scope of the legal protection includes the areas of employment, social protection, education as well as access to goods and services44.
• European Parliament and Council Directive 2004/38/EC provides that all union citizens have the right to enter and to establish residence for up to three months in another Member State by virtue of having an identity card or valid passport. Also Union citizens or members of their families can be expelled from the host Member State only on grounds of public policy, public security or public health. However, such a decision must be based exclusively on the personal conduct of the concerned individual AND must represent a sufficiently serious and present threat which affects the fundamental interest of the state. The directive states clearly that an expulsion can under no circumstances be taken on economic grounds45.

Within the powers conferred by the EU law, the European agencies can request the Italian government to comply with the EU acquis. As for the BATNA, the European Commission can resort to the non-compliance procedure as explained above in this paper.

In 1997 the bilateral relations between Romania and Italy reached the level of a strategic partnership, a partnership that, due to its positive effect on the political, economical, social and cultural relations between the two states, was consolidated in 2008 through a joint declaration between the Ministers of Foreign Affairs that decided for an enhanced cooperation in the political; security and defense; economic; energy, environment and agriculture; justice and internal affairs; health; culture and education; and labor and social fields46.

Under these circumstances the commercial exchanges between the two countries have grown continuously since 1997, Italy becoming Romania’s first commercial partner47. In the same time a growing number of the Romanians living in Italy have established their own companies, and, based on the Ethnoland Foundation’s research, between 2003 and 2008 the number of companies owned by the Romanian versus other immigrants has registered the highest growth rate, of 61.2%. Moreover, according with the Bank of Italy, the immigrants’ contribution to Italy’s GDP in 2007 was 9.2%. Finally, immigrant owned companies have created 500,000 new jobs, which is even more important due to the economic crisis48.

Given such an excellent record of bilateral cooperation, we expect that the negotiation between the two governments will proceed smoothly. It is in each country’s interests that the crisis is solved quickly and amicably, so there will be no further impediments to the political and economic stability of their countries.

Now that we have understood how each of the parties define the issues to be negotiated, their different positions but almost overlapping interests, and as we developed each party’s best alternative to a negotiated agreement, we can confidently say that we do not oversee any major obstacles to reaching an amiable and efficient agreement. Given the fact that Italy has three more years till the next elections, politicians electoral interest to play with Italians xenophobic sentiments has faded. Also, the two governments are already working together on the police and judiciary areas. Moreover, the Italian government has been responsive so far to the EU requests and resolutions. Despite all these we see the need to explore more joint options for the resolving of the remaining problems; in this particular case we cannot think of a better strategy for each party than to meet its own self-interest by developing a solution which also appeals to the self-interest of the other49. In this case solving their problem is NOT their problem50.




1 FRA (2008), Incident Report – Violent attacks against Roma in the Ponticelli district of Naples, Italy, p.9.
3 Later it was proved that Mailat did not rape the woman., accessed 2 July 2009.
5, accessed 5 June 2009.
6 „Napoli vendetta anti-rom „Via chi rapisce I bambini”, in: Corriere della Sera, accessed 13 May 2008.
7 I.De Arcangelis (2008) „Napoli, e assalto ai campi nomadi”, in: La Repubblica, p.11.
8 „Napoli, spranghe e Molotov contro I nomadi”, in: Corriere della Sera (14 May 2008).
9 The Shengen Agreement was first signed between the five original members of the European Community on 14 June 1985. When it came into effect in 1995, it abolished checks at the internal borders of the signatory States and created a single external border where immigration checks for the Schengen area are carried out in accordance with identical procedures. Common rules regarding visas, right of asylum and checks at external borders were adopted to allow the free movement of persons within the signatory States without disrupting law and order. The Schengen area gradually extended to include every EU Member State. For more details see
10 C. Mustacchio (2008) „Sicurezza, Bucarest stoppa Maroni „Norme xenophobe””, in : Liberazione
11 In „Senatul Italian a adoptat masurile definitive pentru combaterea imigratiei ilegale” at, accessed 3 June 2009.
13 FRA (2008), Incident Report – Violent attacks against Roma in the Ponticelli district of Naples, Italy, p.7-8.
14 FRA (2008), Incident Report – Violent attacks against Roma in the Ponticelli district of Naples, Italy, p.12.
15 M.Ludovico (2008), „Fratini fondi UE per l’integratione dei rom in Italia”, in: Il Sole 24 Ore.
16 In „Recensamintele Romilor din Italia, criticate in raportul HRW 2009” din, accessed 14 June 2009.
19, accessed 20 June 2009.
20 O. Liso (2007) „Rogo al campo rom, politici indagati”, in: La Repubblica.
21 B. Persano (2008), „I Rom peggio degli extracomunitari” Sono un pericolo. Via I campi”, in: La Repubblica available at The survey was conducted through telephone interviews on a sample of 1,000 people resident in Italy.
22 FRA (2008), Incident Report – Violent attacks against Roma in the Ponticelli district of Naples, Italy, p.20.
23 FRA (2008), Incident Report – Violent attacks against Roma in the Ponticelli district of Naples, Italy, p.20.
24 The EU Council of General Affairs and External Relations.
26 Based on this accord, the Romanian criminals who have been condemned in Italy can expiate their punishment in Romania only if they expressly request this and if the punishment is longer than two years.
28 „F. Frattini: „Serve un „tagliando” agli accordi di Schengen. Impronte e banca dati”, in: Corriere della Sera.
29 „Presa de azi: Romanii fara locuita decent si venit minim legal, expulzati din Italia”, at:, accessed 22 June 2009.
30 A. Stuparu (2009), „Maroni: Milano, un model de integrare a imigrantilor” at:, accessed 23 June 2009.
31 A. Stuparu (2009), „Renato Schifani: Italia are nevoie de imigranti” at:, accessed 17 June 2009.
32 In case a EU member country does not comply with the EU law, the European Commission will start a non-compliance procedure in order to bring the infringement to an end. The infringement procedure is the first phase of the above mentioned procedure, and its aim is to enable the member state to comply voluntarily with the EU law. If the Commission’s measures do not resolve the infringement, it has the power to refer the case to the European Court of Justice., accessed 10 Jun 2009.
33 „The Prime Minister’s declaration regarding the Romanians’ situation in Italy”, Romanian Government – Press Office, (3 Nov 2007).
34 „The Prime Minister’s declaration after the reunion on the Romanian Community in Italy’s situation”, Romanian Government – Press Office, (4 Nov 2007).
35 „Masuri pentru gestionarea situatiei din Italia” at:, accessed, 6 July 2009.
36 „Masuri pentru gestionarea situatiei din Italia” at:, accessed 6 July 2009.
37 Press conference with the occasion of Romania’s President Traian Basescu visit in Italy, at:, accessed 31 June 2009.
38 Ibid.
39 Phone interview with Mrs. Anca Opris, Deputy Director of the West and Central Europe Directorate, Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, (10 Jun 2009).
40 The rights conferred by the EU citizenship are: the right to move and reside freely without reference to economic activity (subject to certain limitations), the right to vote and stand as a candidate, right against discrimination, the right to diplomatic and consular protection of any member state outside the EU, and the right to petition the European Parliament and to complain to the European Ombudsman, at:, accessed 23 June 2009.
41 The entire body of European laws is known as the acquis communautaire. This includes all the treaties, regulations and directives passed by the European institutions as well as judgements laid down by the Court of Justice, at:, accessed 10 July 2009.
44 Commission staff working document {COM(2008) 420 final}, „Non-discrimination and equal opportunities: A renewed commitment” (2 Jul 2008), pg. 5.
45 „ Right of Union citizens and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States”, at:, accessed 10 June 2009.
46 Declaratie comuna a ministrilor de afaceri externe ai Romaniei si Republicii Italiene privind parteneriatul strategic, at, accessed 23 June 2009.
49 R. Fisher and W. Ury, (1981), „Getting to YES, Negotiating agreement without giving in”, B. Patton, Second edition, USA, Houghton Mifflin Company, pg 59.
50 Ibid.

ANCA IONESCU - absolventă a Universităţii de Vest din Timişoara, specilizarea Finanţe Bănci (1997) şi deasemenea a programului de master Politică şi Economie Europeană, organizat de Şcoala Naţională de Studii Politice şi Administrative. În prezent urmeză cursurile Global Master of Art in International Affairs la The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, USA.





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